Furthermore, Florida fans are eager for the Gators to win this tournament and host the winner of the Tallahassee Regional in next weekend's Super Regionals. This was easily the most emotionally charged crowd of the 2005 season.
The right hander from Dunnellon kept the Tar Heels off of the base paths for the first three innings by mixing up his pitches, staying ahead of the batters, and locating his pitches.
"We didn't know what to expect (Boss versus Miller)." North Carolina Coach Mike Fox said. "He carved us up. I mean he just carved us up. What a terrific performance by him. He threw pitches for strikes. He kept us off balance. We were hitting with a strike on us, two strikes, it seemed like every at bat. A terrific performance by him. Absolutely! I know his pitch count wasn't very much. We were hoping it would be a pitcher's duel with our guy out there, but we obviously were not able to score any more runs. He was terrific."
Carolina finally opened the scoring with a pair in the fourth. Boss walked leadoff hitter Greg Mangum, who advanced to second two pitches later on Justin Webb's sacrifice bunt. Designated hitter Matt Ellington then grounded out to Adam Davis at second. Cleanup hitter Chad Flack deposited a Boss offering into the left filed bleachers for a 2-0 lead. It would be the only big mistake that Boss would make.
Florida answered in the sixth inning. Shortstop Justin Tordi led off with a walk. Designated hitter Jared Kubin then hit a single to right field. After an offensive timeout, Corsaletti slashed (fake bunt, swinging away) the first pitch into right field to load the bases with no outs. Tordi made the turn from third, but opted to go back to the bag.
Corsaletti's move added fuel to an already energized Florida crowd.
It was a very big play," Florida Coach Pat McMahon said of the slash. "We wanted Jeff to swing the bat for us. We had an opportunity and he works very hard on that part of it. When you can move defense around and create holes, that becomes an opportunity and to Jeff's credit, he executed that and did a great job. When we called an offensive timeout to talk about it I asked him if he felt good enough to do that and he completed the task."
Davis then hit a ball to the track in right center which scored Tordi. Miller crossed up Matt LaPorta for two quick strikes before plunking him on the foot to load the bases yet again. Catcher Brian Jeroloman singled to center scoring Kubin for the tying run. Third baseman Brandon McArthur grounded out to second scoring Corsaletti and giving the Gators a 3-2 lead.
With two out, right fielder Brian LeClerc hit a high chopper into center field that scored LaPorta and Jeroloman, who was running all the way. The inning ended with Florida plating five for the 5-2 lead.
"The slash was a terrific play on their part and opened the door for them," Fox said afterward. "I thought that it was a gutsy move, you know left (vs) left to make that call and be aggressive in that situation and load the bases. They did what was necessary after that, which is what a good team does."
LeClerc had had a terrific day overall. He went three for four with three RBI's against Stetson in the early game and followed that up with a one for three performance that saw him drive in a pair of runs. The Clearwater native made the defensive play of the game, as he robbed Josh Horton of Carolina's first hit of the game with a beautiful diving catch in which he barely came up with the ball trapped in the webbing of his glove.
Miller (8-4) was pretty spectacular. The sophomore called the best college pitching prospect in the country allowed only five hits and five earned runs. Four of the hits and all five of the runs occurred in the bottom half of the sixth.
"They're a really good team," Andrew Miller said. "They got one big inning and their inning was bigger than ours. I facilitated it, hit a batter, walked a batter, gave them an opportunity and they capitalized. They perfectly executed the slash and put the ball in play and scored a lot of runs that inning."
"Nerves are a part of the game, but I felt comfortable out there the entire time. Now, I don't think the fact that I was out here at home or the crowd was out there screaming, probably the loudest I've ever seen when I was pitching on the mound. That was amazing."
Florida will play the winner of tomorrow afternoon's (2pm) Notre Dame/North Carolina game. The championship contest is scheduled for 6pm Sunday at The Mac. McMahon said that he has not yet decided on a starter. He did say that it would either be Alan Horne, Tommy Wynn, or Stephen Locke.
"My hat's off to the University of Florida they have an excellent ball club and did what's necessary tonight to win," Fox conceded. "The fine line between winning and losing is they made plays. Unfortunately, they had one big inning. I thought that Andrew (Miller) was terrific; One of his best outings of his career. To be able to handle everything, his being back home and all that on top of it in a big game as well. I thought that he handled it extremely well."